When we're born, we're pure. We don't have any inhibitions, judgements, opinions, biases. As we grow, we start to see, learn, observe, reflect, hear, form habits and absorb the information from the outside world. This can be from people, from what we read, what we're told from our loved ones, authoritative or respected figures or friends and so on.

Through that we intellectually learn right from wrong, we adopt people's viewpoints and categorise them into other ‘boxes’, if you like, in our brain as a way of interpreting the world around us - almost like a jigsaw that we piece together, so it all makes sense to us.

We study further at school, meet new people through all walks of life - schools, University, jobs, new social groups, clubs, where we live. We continue to learn and at a level we’re constantly contextualising and interpreting everything around us, continuing to ‘box’ things so they make sense based on our earlier experiences that I’ve just briefly mentioned.
Despite our learning and understanding of the world around us, our role within it often comes into question and we think 'I don’t know who I am anymore?' or we ask ‘who am I?’

I've heard it a lot - friends, family and clients - people just like you and I. I reached that point a couple of years ago and asked myself that question a few times – ‘WHO AM I?!’ I genuinely didn’t know the answer to that question at the time – I knew my values (they hadn’t changed), but there was something about the role that I now had in my life that had changed; the aspirations, the ‘making things happen’ – it just wasn’t there for me.

All those experiences I had growing up to that point in my life didn’t help. The way I had learnt to deal with things, to overcome things (as we all have to at some point), drawing on strength or willpower that I had. They weren’t working. It was dragging me down.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

That question or statement ‘Who am I?’ or ‘I don’t know who I am any more’ is a powerful one. Even if there isn't a mirror next to you, it's like you're looking at yourself in that mirror asking that very question. Who has the answer?

People can give you their answer, their interpretation of who they think you are; they may be the closest thing to you that you have in your life - and of course it's good to talk to them about it, however, there is only one person who knows you - and that is YOU.

Generally, from what I’ve seen, there are two main points or junctions in a person's life when they pose that question or statement to themselves - 'Who Am I?' or 'I don't know who I am any more' and those are -

1. A significant life event - death of someone close to them, serious health issue or accident that has suddenly affected a previous level of functioning such as going to work, exercise or sexual performance.

2. When someone has lived their life a certain way for such a long time and they realise they are so stuck; possibly on that hamster wheel that they can’t get off, that the path they have been on is not what they want - or indeed ever wanted in the first place.

Asking ourselves 'who we are' is a serious question and in either case, we're asking it due to a feeling of 'stuckness' - a busy mind, trying to work something out.

In terms of the lives we lead, is ours all about-
• Providing for our family?
• Earning as much as we can?
• Getting as far as we can in our career?
• Working long hours?
• Being recognised or validated for what we do or have done?
• Being in the spotlight?
• Being trodden on?
• Being a good sexual partner?
• Making people laugh and not being boring?
• Impressing others?
• Just being accepted?
• Supporting others to allow them to flourish?
• Punishing yourself?

All these kinds of things of course run at many levels – if it is ‘to be accepted’, to what extent do we go to, or are we currently going to, to be accepted for example?
Or what means do we use to punish ourselves? Are there periods when this gets out of hand?

Sometimes we don't realise how we're living or even why we're living the way we do.

Working in the mental health and addictions field, I worked:

-With a man who had challenges with impotence - he had lived his life as a perceived high powered/high earning/brash/needing-to-be-respected person. His sexual dysfunction and performance was crippling his ego. So he used substances to try and help.
-With a female who wanted to be perfect all the time. She had issues with her body image and was constantly looking out for the validation from others to feel accepted.

Perhaps closer to home, someone close to me has spent their life providing for the family - a sudden physical health issue impacted greatly on the ability to 'perform that role' to the same level as what they had always done. This impacted them massively.

In whatever role we assign ourselves or whatever role we’re assigned, nothing is fixed – if it IS fixed it is breakable. Therefore, if it then ‘breaks’ as such, we’re likely to experience a challenging time, and then give ourselves a hard time over having that challenging time.

Why would we do that to ourselves?

We can only give what we can give at a particular time. We can only offer what we’ve got to offer. That’s us, that’s who we are. There may be times when no doubt we’re feeling stronger, more energised, inspired, resilient, able to be the person that we want to be and live to other people’s expectations (maybe in terms of the role that we’ve always performed day-to-day – whether for ourselves or others).

It is important though to recognise that we do go through periods where we’re feeling less strong, feeling less able - as does everyone else that we come across in our lives. The expectations that we’ve placed on ourselves - with our ego playing a big role in this, or the expectations of others, sometimes just can’t be met.

In those times, we could just be nice to ourselves once in a while. To stop giving ourselves a hard time and creating those extra layers of pressure with our thinking to be something or someone else.

That’s a lot of pressure for anyone - it is impossible to be that best version of us every single moment of every day. It’s illogical to think that.

Does it really matter that we can’t be at our ‘best’ every second of every day? If it feels like that, where is that feeling coming from? I mean, where is it REALLY coming from?

If we’re able to get to a place where we can be accepting of ourselves, it might just quieten our Mind down and we’re creating that space - that capacity for new thoughts to emerge. We’re essentially releasing the pressure valve and, as the intelligence of Mind always has our back, the solutions will come.

There - right there, is the answer to who we really are.

In this article we’ve explored how what we’ve learnt through our lives quite often leads us to assign ourselves roles or accept being assigned roles. We perform them diligently much of the time and follow a path within that role, which we might be happy with or just do because it is necessary and for the greater good.

However, that point in our lives where we might ask ourselves ‘Who am I?’ could occur from the significant life event that has impacted our abilities, or we could generally be frustrated with our ‘lot’.
Losing direction, losing momentum or motivation is something we all do from time-to-time.

Showing acceptance and love and kindness to ourselves can play a big role in quietening our Mind down, and the answers for what to do next can be unlocked, along with the answers to our question being found.

Author's Bio: 

Dave helps to change lives through a conversation that guides people back towards their innate health and wellbeing.

With a background in mental health, addictions, business and sport, his time is being dedicated to educating people through podcasts, his Bulletproof Yourself products, 1:1 work with clients; small groups, as well as articles.

The focus of the work is to help people feel bulletproof against any area of challenge in their lives.